The Fortune Cookie has thrown down a gauntlet straight at two-time Grand Slam champion coach Tim Cone.
PBA great Fortunato Co, not one to mince words in jest or otherwise, has issued an open challenge for Cone, the San Mig Super Coffee mentor, to go after the Crispa Redmanizers’ record six straight titles put together during league’s gestation years from the maiden 1975 season to early 1977.
Co, a key member of the Redmanizers’ Grand Slam teams in 1976 and 1983, was a guest of honor during Thursday’s PBA Press Corps Awards Night at the Richmonde Hotel in Eastwood City, Libis, Quezon City.
He arrived with Crispa teammate and longtime friend Philip Cezar, the 1980 MVP, and took the podium before another guest speaker Jojo Lastimosa, a starter in Cone’s 1996 Grand Slam champion Alaska team.
Co, a 9-time Mythical First Team member, first took a swipe at his current state as coach of the Mapua Cardinals in the NCAA.
“Si (host) Quinito Henson nakaputi kasi anim na panalo na ang La Salle (Henson’s UAAP alma mater); ako naman naka-itim kasi kulelat kami sa Mapua,” said Co, drawing laughter from the packed ballroom led by Executive of the Year awardee Ramon S. Ang, president and chief operating officer of San Miguel Corporation.
Turning serious, Co added: “Pero lahat naman tayo nag-uumpisa sa baba, tapos unti-unting nakaka-akyat sa pamamagitan ng tiyaga. Yan ang gagawin namin sa Mapua”
He then faced Cone at his table where he sat with his wife and son and told him: “Now we both have two Grand Slams, Coach Tim. Now I’m challenging you to try and win six straight championships like we did at Crispa.”
That brought the house down and even Cone, who was being honored with the Baby Dalupan Coach of the Year award, doubled over in applause.
Co later softened on his dare, saying he was just joking.
It was too late though as Cone took him up on the challenge.
“The first thing I’ll tell my players once we start practicing for the 40th PBA season is that our journey is far from over; that we still have some ways to go,” Cone said, then addressing Mark Barroca, the Accel Order of Merit awardee three tables away, “and I’m telling it to you now, Mark.”
San Mig captured the 2012-2013 Governor’s Cup before completing only the PBA’s fifth Grand Slam last season, bringing the Mixers’ total to four championships.
Cone had told Bulletin-Tempo during the 2013-2014 Governors’ Cup pre-Finals press conference, just before they faced Yeng Guiao and Rain or Shine, that should they succeed in winning the Grand Slam, their next mission would be to go after Crispa’s six consecutive titles.
The Redmanizers denied arch-rival Toyota a three-conference sweep of the PBA’s maiden season in 1975 by winning the third leg. Dalupan then steered them through the Grand Slam in 1976 before winning two more in 1977, getting beaten by Toyota in the third conference.
“If we happen to win this series,” Cone had told Tempo, “I don’t think that should be the end to us. There’s always something to reach for. Crispa won six conferences in a row. It would be nice to challenge Crispa and go beyond that. It’s a record that would be tough to match at some point. That’s the challenge for us.”